Middle of the Week, Thursday, Quoting “classical” rock lyrics, part III: “The Boxer”

The Boxer (Simon & Gafunkel single) coverart.jpg

“The Boxer”, released in 1969, written by Paul Simon, and included in the Simon & Garfunkle 1970 album Bridge Over Troubled Waters, is a song about loneliness, struggle, poverty and trying to make it in New York City. Paul Simon said it was autobiographical as he felt he was being mistreated and threatened if it continued he would leave. I don’t know if this is true or not or that he threatened to leave where…

However, the song is powerful, the lyrics reflect something that many people have gone through and are going through, perhaps right now, somewhere. It doesn’t have to be New York City. This is an age of refugees, of immigrants, people coming to the cities, people suffering, people struggling and people sinking more and more into poverty.

So, thinking about all those things, a tangible reality that I witnessed myself when I came to the United States, I always loved this song. And especially I felt a part of these lines:

“he carries the reminders of every glove (blow, on the Bob Dylan* cover) that laid him down or cut him till he cried out…I am leaving, I am leaving but the fighter still remains.”

Sometimes I too have felt like a boxer. There have been times when I did carry the “reminders” of the multiple blows life…and people…have given me. But the struggle, the fight is not over. A round can be won or lost but it doesn’t mean anything. The only indicator of success or failure is when you reach the end and you feel either a sense of contentment or regret. If you felt regret you know you lost.

And wanting to leave? Many times I wanted to leave, but although I had to fight with the thought, I defeated it and pushed it aside. I also think failure can be defined as not willing yourself to finish, not forcing yourself to the end. And even if you have to low crawl through thorns, cradling the blows, the insults, the injustices of others, in the end you will feel like a winner. They can take away everything you have and own but no one can take away from you what you have done…

Then here comes your turn. Please tell me what you think. Do you know this song? I am sure you do, I mean, I think everybody does. Do you like it? There are many quotable lines in this song, do you have another one? I await your reply.

Here is the song, and so that you can sing along, I will first include the lyrics (with the extra verses that are not on the version of “The Boxer” found in the album Bridge over Troubled Waters.

I am just a poor boy
Though my story’s seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles
Such are promises
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest
When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station
Running scared
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places
Only they would know
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie la lie, lie la lie
Lie la la la lie la lie, la la la la lie
Asking only workman’s wages
I come looking for a job
But I get no offers
Just a come-on from the whores
On Seventh Avenue
I do declare
There were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there
La la la la la la la
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie la lie, lie la lie
Lie la la la lie la lie, la la la la lie
Then I’m laying out my winter clothes
And wishing I was gone
Going home
Where the New York City winters
Aren’t bleeding me
Leading me
Going home
In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
Or cut him ’til he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains
Lie la lie, lie la la la lie la lie, lie la lie
Lie la la la lie la lie

This is the verse that was not included but that Paul Simon has sung in concert:

Now the years are rolling by me—
They are rockin’ evenly.
I am older than I once was,
And younger than I’ll be.
That’s not unusual;
No, it isn’t strange:
After changes upon changes
We are more or less the same;
After changes we are more or less the same.

And here is the song…

*From the Bob Dylan album Self Portrait of 1970

Salaam, Shalom, Peace, Paz…


  1. spwilcen · October 15

    Wore my album out. Have it on CD. But they’re all packed away somewhere. And it was “The Boxer” that got the play. Ah, back in the day…

  2. margarethallfineart · October 15

    Thanks so much ! This is an old favourite of mine and I really enjoyed singing along with the lyrics.

  3. Brad Osborne · October 15

    Paul was an extraordinary songwriter and this song was no exception. My favorite line is “In the clearing stands a boxer, And a fighter by his trade…” It makes me think that we are born to push back against the harshness of the world. That struggle, success, and defeat are all things we must face in our personal fight. Keep your hands up, protect yourself at all times, and fight to the final bell. Great post and a wonderful series for your readers!

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